From: Reuters
Published September 12, 2008 10:05 AM

Loggers still a threat to Amazon Indians

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Isolated native Indians in the Amazon forest of Brazil and Peru remain threatened by advancing loggers despite growing international attention to their plight, a senior Brazilian official said on Thursday.

"Pressure from Peruvian loggers continues, it's a concern," Marcio Meira, head of the government's Indian affairs agency, Funai, told the foreign press association in Brasilia.

Brazil's Acre state along the border with Peru is one of the world's last refuges for such groups, but increasing activity by wildcat miners and loggers puts them at risk.

Dramatic pictures of pigment-covered Indians from the region threatening the photographer's aircraft with bows and arrows were carried in May by media worldwide.

The Peruvian ambassador to Brazil subsequently told Meira his government was concerned about the issue and preparing measures, without detailing what these were.

Brazil has 26 confirmed native Indian tribes that live with little or no contact with the outside world. There are unconfirmed reports of an additional 35 such groups.

Many of them live in the forest like their forefathers did centuries ago, hunting and gathering.

More than three months after the photographs sparked an international media frenzy, Funai officials continue to witness logging activity in the region. "There is evidence. We see timber floating down the river which originates in Peru," said Meira.

Survival International, a group that campaigns for tribal peoples' rights, said last week that the Peruvian government had not lived up to its promise of publishing an investigation into accusations of illegal logging.

"The Peruvian government must not be allowed to bury this issue, or to turn their backs on the uncontacted tribes," said Survival's director, Stephen Corry.

The issue will be discussed at an international conference on native Indians in Georgetown, Guyana, later this month, Meira said.

Advancing loggers also threaten isolated tribes in Brazil's northern Mato Gross state and along the upper Xingu river in Para state, Meira said.

(Reporting by Raymond Colitt, editing by Ross Colvin)

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